CHICAGO ACTORS LAUNCH EQUITY COLE THEATRE First production to be Mike Leigh’s Ecstasy, running August 25-September 28, 2014

image003Acclaimed Chicago actors Boyd Harris and Layne Manzer announce the founding of Cole Theatre, working under an Equity contract with non-profit status. With the tagline “victory of the people” as its battle cry, Cole Theatre is an arena for underused and under-sung artists to rise up and be seen louder and clearer. The name “Cole” is Greek for “people’s victory.” The inaugural show will be Mike Leigh’s Ecstasy, staged at A Red Orchid Theatre in Old Town, August 25-September 28.  

Harris and Manzer are familiar faces in Chicago theater – from storefront to Equity houses – and have been instrumental in the founding and growth of programs and companies serving the Chicago theater community.

“This is not a group of 20-somethings out of college,” says Harris, who will be Cole’s artistic director. “Cole Theatre is made of artists who’ve been active in the Chicago theater community for many years.  ‘Victory of the people’ is our rally cry, and our victory is working and producing in concert with those loved and highly regarded artists we know should be working more.”

Defying the prevailing wisdom of startups, Cole is coming out of the gate big and ambitious with a Seventies-era period drama and a six-member ensemble cast. Ecstasywill be directed by Jeff Award-winner Jonathan Berry.

“I’ve always been drawn to the struggle of the underdog,” says Manzer, Cole’s managing director. “‘Victory of the people’ implies to me common people and not ‘Victory of kings.’

“The choice of Ecstasy as our inaugural production has to do with the underdog’s journey to get to a better place. A group of middle- to lower-class people finds their own victory within a change in the way they look at what that victory is. Victory is not in achieving more money, a bigger home, more children, rather finding peace and happiness in one’s own situation.”

The last major mounting of Ecstasy in Chicago was Roadworks Productions’ in 1997, a dazzling production that moved to Los Angeles with Nick Offerman in the cast. A second show, to be staged in spring 2015, will be announced soon.

Boyd Harris has anchored some of the longest running and most successful, community-Saffecting shows in Chicago in the last few years, including: Northwest Highway at The Gift Theatre and David Cromer’s Picnic at Writers Theatre.  Other credits include: Hollow Lands, directed by Jonathan Berry at Steep Theatre and Austin Pendleton’s production of Bus Stop outside of Washington, DC.  Boyd can be seen in The Onion‘s hit satirical series Sex House. Born and raised in Chicago’s old Little Sicily neighborhood on the same street as Dennis Farina, Boyd is a graduate of DePaul University and the School at Steppenwolf.

Layne Manzer recently was seen as part of the original cast of Hit the Wall with The Inconvenience as part of Steppenwolf’s 2012 Garage Rep which recently remounted at The Greenhouse Theatre this year. Other Chicago credits include The Jewels with TUTA, Assisted Living with Profiles Theatre, The Lady’s Not for Burning with Theo Ubique, Our Bad Magnet with Mary-Arrchie as well as working as a commercial and film actor in Chicago seen in commercials and will be in the soon-to-be-released romantic comedy In Between Engagements with Armand Assante. Layne Manzer is a founding member of The Plagiarists in 2007 where he served as the managing director until 2013.  In Chicago he has also been part of play development with The Inconvenience and Jackelope Theatre through workshops and festivals.  He was a member of Rough Magic Productions in 2003 based in Lincoln, Nebraska where he served as the managing director. Layne earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and graduated from the School at Steppenwolf in 2009.

About Cole Theatre

Cole Theatre Company, established in 2014, is a band of theater artists who have come together to tell interesting, thoughtful relevant stories seeking to illuminate the joy, horror, humor, sadness, triviality and humanity within the worlds we have constructed or those we have allowed to be constructed for us.  For more information about Cole Theatre’s productions and programs, visit call 773-327-1066 or email